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Updated: March 31, 2011 22:12 IST

Libyan Foreign Minister defects to U.K.

Hasan Suroor
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Qadhafi regime crumbling from within, says Hague

In a dramatic development, hailed by the British government as a sign that the Qadhafi regime was “crumbling from within'', Libya's high-profile Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa on Thursday defected to Britain saying he was “no longer willing'' to represent his country.

His defection came as Britain expelled five Libyan diplomats claiming they posed a threat to national security.

Mr. Koussa, who arrived here late on Wednesday, was taken to a “safe location'' and was being questioned by intelligence agencies hoping to extract from him vital inside information about the Qadhafi regime.

“This is a treasure trove of information. This is someone who knows where the bodies are buried,'' a government source told The Times amid speculation that Mr. Moussa was likely seek asylum in Britain. A close ally of Col. Qadhafi and one-time head of Libyan intelligence, Mr. Moussa landed at Farnborough airport, about 55 km south-west of London, on what the BBC said was “believed to have been a British military plane''. This lent credence to reports that British intelligence agencies might have facilitated his defection as part of the West's campaign to induce the Qadhafi loyalists to desert him.

Involvement

But the Foreign Office denied any British involvement insisting that he “travelled here under his own free will''.

“He came by his own means... we did not know of his intentions to defect until after his arrival in Britain,” said a spokesman.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr. Koussa's defection showed that the Qadhafi regime was breaking up.

“He has been my channel of communication to the regime in recent weeks and I have spoken to him several times on the telephone. His resignation shows that Qadhafi's regime...is fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within. Qadhafi must be asking himself: who will be the next?'' he said.

Mr. Koussa, once head of Libyan mission in London, was expelled from Britain in 1980 over his role in an attack on Libyan dissidents. Later, he became a key figure in negotiations between the British government and Colonel Qadhafi that led to him being embraced by the West. He also played a role in the release in 2009 of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie air crash killing 270 people.

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